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Taste of New Haven Theater District Tour

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We moved to the New Haven area 5 years ago and are still fining new places to eat and enjoy in the Elm City.  One of the best ways we’ve found to explore the city is on a Taste of New Haven tour.  These tours offer a unique look at the city with stops at various shops and restaurants where you sample the food and drink offerings.  The tour guides are incredibly knowledgable about the history of New Haven and its beautiful architecture.  This weekend we took our second tour through the Theater District in Downtown New Haven.  It included wine, chocolate, apizza, local beer, margaritas and a stroll through Yale in the rain…it was a blast!  Come on, I’ll take you along…

We met our tour guide Natalie at Temple Plaza behind the Shubert Theatre at 3pm on Saturday.  There were about 16 people in our group and we all quickly introduced ourselves by sharing our name, where we’re from, what we do and what our favorite food is.  That is a really tough question for me, but I went with pork belly…of course 🙂

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After a brief history of the plaza we were in, we headed off to our first stop which was a wine tasting.  Natalie warned us we were going to have a good time!

The Wine Thief

Here we were treated to a tasting of two wines, a von Schleinitz Riesling and a red from Portugal called Agricultura.  The Riesling was too sweet and neither B nor I enjoyed it, but the Agricultura was wonderful!  That is a wine I never would pick up in the store because I know nothing about Portuguese wines, but now I might have a new favorite.  

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We took some time to look around the shop that is filled with unique spirits and has a large local beer section.  We also learned that a wine thief is actually a long glass shaft that is used to sample barrels as they are aging.  I just figured they like to go around stealing wine…

Temple Grill

After a few samples, we headed over to Temple Grill for a bite to eat and a cocktail.  

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Even with a slight drizzle, we were seated outside under umbrellas which was nice.  We were greeted with Sangira and their Waldorf Chicken Salad Wrap with homemade Waffle Fries.  I’m not a big fan of Sangria but this was pretty tasty and not overly sweet.  The wrap was just ok, nothing to get excited about, but the waffle fries were delicious!  I could’ve eaten a bucket of those.

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While we ate, Natalie told us a bit of history about the location and the owner’s great, great, great grandfather who apparently owned a local brewery and became a pioneer by selling his product on Sundays right there in that location.  

Bar

The rain was really starting to come down now so we quickly made our way to the next stop on the tour, Bar.  New Haven is famous for its “apizza” style of pizza, which I have really grown to love over the past few years.  Bar was one place I hadn’t tried yet so I was excited to see what all the hype was about.  

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The restaurant is very unique in that it is housed inside an old parking garage and still has all the exposed brick and metal beams exposed.  The space is massive and we were seated in the Back Room which is actually turned into a nightclub on the weekends.  

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Here we sampled three of their own beers that they brew on premise: Toasted Blonde, AmBAR Ale and Damn Good Stout.  I actually really enjoyed all three of these, but the Damn Good Stout was by far my favorite.  It was actually light for a stout and had interesting coffee and chocolate notes.  

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While we were waiting for our pizza, we learned more about the history of New Haven Apizza and the rivalries between the famous institutions of Frank Pepe’s and Sally’s.  Bar’s pizza is a bit different from the traditional as the crust is thinner and it is not made in a coal fired over, but damn that was some good pizza!

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We were able to sample 3 different pies: a traditional red pie (no cheese), red pie with mozzarella, and Bar’s signature mashed potato and bacon pie.  While the mashed potato pie might sound good in theory, it was way too rich for me.  That’s like heavy carbs on top of carbs.  My favorite was actually the red pie…the sauce was so good that it really didn’t need anything else.  After we ate, Natalie treated us all to a few Fireball shots…FIRE IN THE HOLE!

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By the time we left, the rain was coming down but it was still pretty warm out so B and I actually had a fun time walking around in the rain.  Maybe the shots helped too.  On our way to the next spot, we stopped to look at some of the architecture of the Yale buildings on what I’m assuming is their version of “fraternity row.”  Not only did the Greek letters give it away, but so did the abundance of red solo cups…sigh…

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Chocolat Maya

What’s better to have after some pizza and beer than some chocolate?!  B was super stoked about this next stop  🙂  Chocolat Maya is a boutique chocolate shop, meets cocktail lounge…ok now I was stoked too!  

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Not only did we get a chocolate sampling, but we were greeted with a Salted Caramel Martini!  This is Caramel  Vodka and Butterscotch Schnapps with a Salted Caramel Truffle inside.  OH. YES. PLEASE!  The drink was quite sweet, but I surprisingly really enjoyed it!  We will be back for sure.

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Before leaving, B had to get some chocolates for the road.  He grabbed up an assortment of dark chocolate truffles which were perfect for snacking on the rest of the tour.

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Yale Campus

After stuffing our faces and having quite a few cocktails, we took a break and walked around the Yale Campus a bit.  It is like stepping back in time…makes me wish I tried a bit harder in high school so I could’ve had a chance at going there!  I just want to stay in one of those buildings!

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We stopped outside the Yale Center for British Art, a beautiful museum that is free and open to the public.  Then moved on up to the infamous Skull & Bones building.  It’s quite the fortress…

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On our walk we came across a statue of Theodore Dwight Woolsey, president of Yale in the mid-1800s.  Rumor has it that rubbing his foot will bring good luck, which is why you can see that the color on the shoe is quite worn from over 100 years of luck giving.  Also, check out the crazy cobweb veil going on…yikes!  

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On our way to the next location, we stopped to learn about at a few other unique landmarks.  The Taft Hotel, home to one of my favorite spots in New Haven, Ordinary.  Then it was on to a public art project called Square with four circles, which is located in a walkway between Zinc Restaurant and Ann Taylor.  You can see it in the background of this awesome photo of me with a fake goat in a wagon.

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Oaxaca Kitchen

Time for some Mexican food!  Chips, salsa, guacamole and margaritas make the perfect meal…I probably should’ve said that in the beginning intros!  That is just what we had at Oaxaca Kitchen on College Street.  

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The guac was great (however not as good as mine!) and the salsa has a nice zing.  The margaritas had too much lime juice and/or sour mix in them and many people at the table had the same complaint.  We were able to sit next to a different group at this spot, which is part of the fun in these tours…getting to know people!

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Now it was time to move on to our last stop on the tour.  We were actually pretty full at this point and feeling good from the drinks…it’s amazing how fast four hours can go by when you’re having fun.

Kelly’s Gastropub

This was the only stop on the tour that we had actually been to before.  It had been a few years, but the meal wasn’t all that memorable so I didn’t have high hopes for this spot.  

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Yes, that is B photobombing my pic.  We were greeted by the friendly owner, Pat, who gave us a selection of beers to choose from.  I went with the 1687 Brown Ale from local brewery Charter Oak in Norwalk and B chose the Brother Thelonious Belgian Style Ale from North Coast Brewing.  Big fan of both of these beers!  Pat entertained the group with stories of how he came to America from Ireland and how he ended up setting up shop here in New Haven.  Very entertaining indeed…

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While the beer and company were great, the food was a miss.  I actually forgot to take a photo because I was quite unimpressed.  We were given a goat cheese croquette, tuna tartare and caprese on a cracker.  They were like leftover hors d’ouerves they just threw together for us because (as Pat admitted) they forgot we were coming. 

Natalie then brought in some Mochi Ice Cream that she picked up at Jake’s Diggity Dogs next door.  This was my first experience with mochi and I must say, I’m not a fan.  The chewy, gummy texture was kind of gross.  However B enjoyed it and ate mine up.  As if he didn’t have enough chocolate that day!

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Besides the hiccup with the food at the end, the tour overall was fantastic, informative and just fun!  I think these tours are an absolute steal at $55 (+tax & gratuity) when you consider all of the food and drink you get.  Plus the historical information on New Haven is just fascinating.  There are currently nine different tours being offered, including a Pizza and Pints Bike Tour.  Doesn’t that sound like fun?!    If you are in the New Haven area, or even just passing through, I highly recommend one of these tours.  I think the Wooster Square tour is next on my list…gotta check out all that apizza!

 Do you have any local food tours in your area to check out?

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